Color & Control:


One family balances returning to work and keeping their child safe.


Ivona and Iwan access services at Holland Bloorview for their five-year old son Noah, who lives with a spinal cord injury as a result of being diagnosed with cancer when he was less than three months old. Noah uses a wheelchair and other mobility supports (e.g. stander). He is considered high-risk when it comes to the transmission of COVID-19.

The family of three had just returned from a vacation in the Dominican Republic when the pandemic was declared and naturally, were quite anxious about the need to be extra careful to prevent exposure to the virus. Iwan and Ivana recognize that COVID isn’t going away anytime soon and feel that they know their child and situation better than anyone.

Still, as parents, the couple has found it very challenging—trying to balance Noah’s safety with his need for physical and emotional support. Here are some of the things that Ivona and Iwan have been doing during the pandemic:

  • They have arranged for groceries to be delivered for months to avoid contact with others, and they have been diligent with disinfecting all purchased items that come into the house.
  • Until recently, they decided against bringing in their regular personal support worker to protect Noah.
  • Both parents are working from home.
  • As restrictions began to loosen, they have started to invite some family members over while physically distancing and using masks in their backyard.
  • The couple are taking calculated risks now e.g. allowing a personal support worker to visit their home twice a week for 3 hrs/day, attending private physiotherapy sessions to give Noah the play time and therapy he needs.
  • They’re now creating their social circles as per government guidelines.
  • Ivona has started meeting with friends but is still physically distancing.
  • Both parents are experiencing feelings of guilt as they can’t always provide the amount of attention and support that their son needs at home.
  • Noah would like someone to play with more and doesn’t always get the immediate help he needs to get from one place to another, so they feel like some of his independence has been stripped.
  • Noah hasn’t been able to get botox treatments or ankle-foot orthotics as they were considered elective procedures—even though both parents feel they are vital.

Like many Canadian families, Ivona and Iwan are concerned that families like theirs are at risk of getting left behind during COVID-19. The limited support they get for Noah has been disrupted as regular programs and camps and other services are cancelled and they’re worried about their son’s quality of life moving forward.

Teddy Katz was a CBC sports journalist for 20 years, and chief spokesperson and director of media relations for the Toronto 2015 Pan and Parapan American Games. More recently, Teddy helped run the press office for the International Paralympic Committee in Rio and will be at the Tokyo 2021 Paralympic Games.



At the best of times, caregiving, while rewarding, is also a difficult, stressful, exhausting and often thankless job.

As COVID-19 has turned all of our lives upside down, caregivers can feel more isolated than ever before and without access to many of the resources they depend on. From caregivers with aging parents and children at home, to essential workers worried about exposing vulnerable loved ones, to families overwhelmed in quarantine, the coronavirus is stretching our carer community thin.

If you’re a caregiver tackling daily demands during this pandemic, it’s likely that you are at the very bottom of your priority list. It is always a challenge to find the time and energy for self-care, but when your needs are taken care of, the person you are caring for will benefit as well. Here are a few tips to help you feel a little more calm, healthy and in control during the pandemic:

Stay connected

While we must be physically apart, social distancing does not mean being alone. In moderation, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites can be positive ways to stay in touch, and video conferencing apps like FaceTime, Zoom and Skype may provide the face-to-face connection we are all craving. Use these platforms to play games, listen to music, watch a movie, eat a meal or even have a dance party together with someone outside of your home. If you feel overwhelmed by these technologies, there are a lot of easy-to-follow tutorials online that can help. Checking in on a neighbour or another parent or two from a safe distance, sending a hand-written note or making a phone call are other ways to create a sense
of connectedness.

Limit information overload

The constant media coverage of the coronavirus may be adding to your anxiety and distress. As a caregiver, staying informed and up-to-date
is important to help keep your family safe, but it’s a good idea to set boundaries. Rely on a few trusted sources like, your provincial health department or health professional, read updates only once a day and aim to limit social media.

Prioritize your health

The worry and lack of structure that we are all experiencing can make healthy choices difficult. Try your best to eat balanced meals, get lots of sleep and be active every day. Going for walks, exploring free online workouts, taking long baths or meditating will help boost your mood and reduce stress. You can still binge watch your favourite TV show and eat too much ice cream, but be thoughtful and intentional about how you are treating your body.

Find your joy

During this quarantine, if you find you have a little extra time, consider taking up hobbies and activities you enjoy or are interested in. Get out a puzzle, learn to bake bread, finish that knitting project, listen to podcasts, do crosswords or paint a watercolour. Even in short bursts these activities can help take you away from daily concerns. There’s also exciting content online like the Vancouver Aquarium or Calgary Zoo live cams, The AGO from Home online collection or Stratford Festival plays to help you escape the confines of your home. But, don’t feel any pressure to use this time to learn new things and improve yourself—you may just be in survival mode and that’s okay too!

Unite with parents

Whether you connected with a support group prior to the pandemic or not, it’s more important than ever to find people who understand what you are going through. The Ontario Caregiver Organization and Canadian Caregiver Network both offer online caregiving communities to remind you that we are all in this together. Similarly, reaching out to other carers in your life to
talk openly about how the virus has affected you can create both a support system and human connection.

Get help

If you are isolating with your loved ones—while you may be the primary caregiver—there are ways for family and friends to help. Ask someone to pick up groceries, medications or run errands, organize drive-by visits and accept any offers for meal drop offs. This is an extraordinary situation and really tough, so be honest with yourself about how you are doing. If you are struggling, teletherapy is now covered by most extended health plans. Otherwise, there are many free, online mental health services available including: Big White Wall, The Canadian Mental Health Association’s BounceBack and Anxiety Canada’s app Mindshift.

No one knows for sure how long this will last, and the uncertainty may be the hardest part of the COVID-19 crisis. During these difficult times, take things one day at a time, set realistic expectations, be kind to yourself and try to focus on what matters.

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Crystal Gonder is the Communications Consultant for VHA Home HealthCare.



Let’s face it…we’re more than pumped to get back to work and life before quarantine. Keeping in mind that a vaccine is probably months away, however, all of us still need to be mindful of the risks. The need to be cautious is particularly relevant to those of us in the disability community, many of whom are deemed to be at greater risk due to underlying medical conditions. On a daily basis we need to carefully weigh the personal risks associated with leaving our homes or inviting others into them, of taking public transit, of visiting a grocery store, a restaurant or a place of worship. What might work for some people in the general population may not work for us.

What follows are some essential tips, guidelines and helpful advice that I’ve collected to help you keep this dastardly virus at bay while you go about your business at work, at play and at school.

Preparing for medical appointments to reduce anxiety and confusion

Whether it be a doctor, dentist, chiropractor, therapist or physio, expect your office and lab appointments to look a little different these days.

  • Phone ahead to find out what the office’s safety protocols are, and what you need to know in advance, including what time they want you to show up and where you should wait.
  • Wear a mask or cloth covering.
  • Wash your hands on arrival.
  • Use disinfectant wipes to wash down anything that needs it to satisfy yourself that surfaces and other things are clean and hygienic.
A young man in a wheelchair about to board a paratransit vehicle.

Back into the workplace

Heading back may be daunting. Think of the shortest route you can use to get to your office/desk and make sure you understand the company protocols.

  • Make sure all desks and working spaces in an office allow for social distancing or are separated by Plexiglas barriers or equivalent.
  • Elevators–given space restrictions and turning requirements, wheelchair, scooter users should request solitary use of the elevator. Be prepared to ask and also be prepared to catch the next lift.
  • Remove all clutter and use disinfectant wipes to clean desk tops, office phones, seating and any objects that are kept on your desk or working surface.
  • Wash your hands frequently, taking care to make sure you wipe surfaces in a shared bathroom or kitchen /coffee/ water cooler areas. Beware the fridge and microwave door handles.
  • Encourage your organization to make sure any sick employees stay home until they fully recover.
  • Discuss an immediate operational Plan B with your team in case COVID-19 cases return.
  • If you use a wheelchair or any other mobility aids, ask your colleagues not to touch them during the day.
  • Check that your workplace has a robust ventilation system that moves the air around.
A woman in a wheelchair sitting at a conference table.

The safety basics

Before you do anything else, make sure you travel light (only essentials), have planned your excursion and know where you’re going before venturing out.

  • Get a supply of disinfectant wipes, a box of gloves and good quality masks and be sure you have an easy way to re-order as needed.
  • Know where to get a COVID-19 test if necessary and if you’ve had one, keep the results handy.
  • Regardless of your circumstances, figure out how best to keep distance between yourself and others (within about 6 feet, or 2 meters). Keep in mind some people may have COVID-19 and spread it to others, even if they don’t have symptoms or don’t know they have the virus.
  • Find a way to wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 per cent alcohol.
  • Cover your face with a mask or cloth in public spaces, such as the grocery store, where it’s difficult to avoid close contact with others. Only use non–medical cloth masks—surgical masks and N95 respirators should be reserved for healthcare providers or, perhaps, if you live with or regularly visit somebody with an ongoing and underlying respiratory condition.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth and if you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose with your elbow or a tissue, and try to turn away.
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces regularly.
  • Stay home from work, school, public transportation and shops if you are feeling unwell.
A male grocery store worker wearing a mask and standing in front of vegetables.

Out for lunch or shopping

Not everyone is following the guidelines below. You’re on your own:

  • Always wear a mask or cloth covering.
  • Order food delivery when you can.
  • Shop online rather than in person.
  • Take hand sanitizers or wipes with you when venturing out.
  • Practice social distancing at counters and in line-ups.
  • Be aware of and follow floor markings and directional arrows.
  • Use a credit or debit card rather than cash. l Favour stores with special hours/services for persons with disabilities and seniors.
  • Choose locations with good safety protocols, Plexiglas barriers, and mandatory staff and customer facial covering.
  • Pick places where you can access fresh air or where there are robust ventilation systems.
  • Phone ahead to find out the store’s hours, number of people permitted at any given time, wheelchair access and special services.
A man with down syndrome smiling at work.

Hiring PSWs, attendants or other caregivers

Work with people you can trust to keep you safe and make sure your PSWs and other caregivers have the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) for your care and their safety when they are out and about in the community or caring for others. If they are not wearing the appropriate equipment they could actually be spreading the virus to you and to others, which you want to avoid at all costs.

  • Know where to get supplies. If you are running short of PPE, check with your healthcare providers.
  • Make sure your caregivers are tested regularly for COVID-19, and that you are made aware of their status at all times.
  • Have a back-up plan for when caregivers cannot come to work.
  • Work with any agency or organization you use regularly to provide that back up, or, if you hire your caregivers independently, with the individuals themselves.
  • If for any reason your assigned caregivers are not wearing the PPE they should be wearing while providing your care, mention it to them but also notify the organizations they are associated with.



What employers need to know about bringing people back to work, including employees with disabilities.

As Canadians continue to address the great challenges of COVID-19, many employers are working to remove the barriers that affect the employees who are among the one in five Canadians living with a disability, many of whom are at a higher risk of contracting the coronavirus.

But, according to the federal government, mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on Canadians and businesses will be a “step–by–step process that could be as long as 18 to 24 months.”

In our “new normal,” experts agree organizations should focus on “workplace flexibility,” a way of thinking that benefits both the company and all employees. Ultimately, in this time of crisis, the country has an unexpected opportunity to make lasting changes that respect the rights and dignity of people with disabilities. As well, we have the chance to improve overall working life during—and after—the pandemic.

In a statement, the Chartered Professionals in Human Resources (CPHR Canada) says that employers, in fact, have a statutory duty of care— not to mention a “moral responsibility”—for people’s health and safety during the COVID-19 crisis.

CPHR continues by suggesting a number of ways for employers to do the “right” things.

  1. Employers must keep up to date with the latest public health advice.
  2. Managers should be prepared to refer employees who are concerned about infection to official and expert medical sources.
  3. Companies would be wise to reassure employees who have COVID-19 concerns by utilizing an internal communication strategy to keep management and workers well informed of organizational policies to keep them safe, and contingency plans for employees who have been in contact with an infected person or get sick themselves.
A hair dresser wearing a mask and face shield cutting a man's hair.

CPHR’s guidance also includes encouraging employers to, “Understand that some people may have real concerns about catching the virus, while others may have worries about family or friends stranded abroad or working on the frontlines, such as healthcare workers. It’s important to strike the balance between your organization and its people being prepared for the spread of the virus while discouraging irrational panic with relevant information.” Of course, there’s always a chance the virus will continue to spread and prompt a “second wave,” so the association also suggests that businesses should prepare to “step up the level of support you provide to staff and adjust your resourcing plans accordingly.”

All employers are also advised by CPHR to evaluate their sick policies and provide guidance to employees and managers on how these will be applied to COVID-19 scenarios: “Ensure that line managers are regularly informed about the organization’s contingency plans and how to discuss the situation with any concerned employees, and where to direct people for further advice or support, including employee assistance programs or counselling if they are anxious. If your operations are severely affected, consider introducing a voluntary special leave policy on a temporary basis whereby individuals can opt to take paid or unpaid leave.”

In addition, CPHR’s pandemic recommendations remind employers to address the needs of specific groups of employees who may be more vulnerable as a result of a disability, pre-existing health condition or their role in caring for others. Today, more than 20 per cent of the Canadian population over the age of 15 has at least one disability, which means that a sizeable portion of each organization’s workforce will include individuals who may be at increased risk should they contract the virus.

Similarly, the Institute for Work & Health (IWH) has been advocating for an inclusive and equitable response to the pandemic, suggesting the financial hardship of the pandemic has had gradations of severity, particularly for people with disabilities, their caregivers and their families. “[COVID-19] has put a light onto a lot of issues in our society…and there’s a concern, in general, that disparities might increase,” says Dr. Emile Tompa, a senior scientist at the IWH and the head of the Centre for Research on Work Disability Policy (CRWDP).

Recently, Tompa hosted a federal-provincial policy roundtable related to the Disability and Work in Canada Strategy, which the CRWDP played a significant role in developing. He also chaired the technical committee behind the recently released CSA Group Work Disability Management Systems Standard. The standard also addresses issues like COVID-19, as it relates to accessibility planning and work accommodation.

Tompa says he is pleased with governments and organizations that have been trying to put disability into everything they do: “It’s about building up management systems within organizations to help them do a better job in accommodating workers’ health needs as they arise,” Tompa explains. “It’s also important that they be cognizant of workforce needs beyond the front end of the [opening up, recruiting, hiring and onboarding] process, right over the life course of a person’s engagement in the labor market.” He also insists that there’s not a lot of time and hard costs involved with making most accommodations, even when solutions are “customized” and deployed on a “case-by-case basis.” Take flexible work schedules, for instance, he says: “They cost nothing. With good planning and communication, employees can be creative in how they engage with their work. Everything doesn’t need to be on site.”

COVID-19 does, according to Tompa, have an upside. It has introduced Canadians to what many people with disabilities must confront every single day and encouraged new learning and new flexibility. Workplace measures accommodating people who have disabilities, who are immunocompromised, or who live with a mental illness may have been dismissed as too cumbersome or costly in the past. But facilitating the inclusion of people with different expertise and perspectives is now considered the most ethical and economical way to do business.

Tompa is now leading a COVID-19 impact study, which is in its early stages of development in partnership with disability community organizations. His final tip for employers in both the private and non-profit sectors is to be patient, “creative” about solutions and open to more “learning.”

“[COVID-19] broadens the obligations of employers, and that’s scary when they’re already struggling to survive in a globalized competitive economy,” he suggests. “But it’s the only way to go. … If you have an open mind today, you’ll be stronger for it at the end [of the pandemic].”

A woman in a wheelchair pushing an elevator button.

Greater risk

COVID-19 leads to a respiratory type infection that is mild for roughly 80 per cent of the population. But it can be more severe for older adults or those with chronic underlying conditions. Some people with a disability may not have a high risk of getting COVID-19 or becoming severely ill if they do contract the virus. However, experts suggest they might be at
a higher risk of infection or severe illness because of their age; underlying medical conditions, like diabetes, asthma and chronic lung disease; or their disability, itself, which could place them at greater risk of being exposed and acquiring the infection.

An Asian woman wearing a mask standing behind a cafe counter.

Case Study #1: Variety Village

Reopening plans are no less thorough for Karen Stintz, Variety Village’s president and CEO. As a social enterprise, Variety Village offers a number of life skills and integrated sports programs that support children and adults living with disabilities.

Prior to being shut down on March 15 by the pandemic, Variety Village, a 179,000-square–foot recreation facility, had 6,000 members and operated programs throughout the day for a variety of constituency groups. For example: In the morning, throughout the day and in the evenings VV offered programs aimed at young adults with intellectual disabilities and individuals in rehabilitation, as well as older adults and elite athletes from a local high school. In the evening, it offered recreational programs focussed on children with disabilities and athlete training.

Stintz and her board are moving cautiously. “We are continuing to plan our day camps for children under 16 in July. During a typical summer, we would have at least 200 children per week. Unfortunately, this year, we are planning camps to half of that number of children. For our first week of camp, only 30 children are currently registered. It’s a big change for us as we normally have a full house with lots of activities and a cleaning company that cleans the building after hours. However, without the facility open we can’t afford the monthly fee for that service [$25,000] this summer so our management team will take on cleaning and disinfecting tasks as part of our duties.”

Staff will also be implementing protocols for social distancing and screening. Variety Village is also making personal protective equipment (PPE) available and requiring all employees who have interaction with the public to wear it at all times. Stinz tells us that staff have the option of using protective shields instead of facemasks if they feel it will help them communicate more easily with the children in their programs.

She also underscores the need for non-profit organizations to make accommodations for employees and counsellors during this time—even if the “the numbers of individuals who are being served will be quite low.”

Fifty per cent of children with a disability say they have no friends so, “It is very important that we are able to offer services for those who rely on Variety Village for social connections and activities, says Stinz, who adds that, “The self-isolation that we have all experienced for a few months is a regular state of being for many children living with a disability and their families. So, while its critical that organizations that serve those with a disability be permitted to reopen, we have a responsibility to make sure it is safe. Most of the children and adults coming to Variety Village are a high–needs constituency before COVID-19. Their personal challenges have stayed the same but now their potential health risks have increased.”

An Asian woman wearing a mask standing behind a cafe counter.

Case Study #2: Royal Bank

The health and safety of employees and clients has been our “top priority throughout the pandemic,” according to a spokesperson for RBC. During the lockdown, the organization supported employees in a number of creative ways, including enabling more than 75,000 of them to handle diverse roles through technology solutions, allowing them to work from home. Communication specialists set up a centralized hub online to distribute COVID-19 updates, FAQs, and advisories, as well as helpful resources and support programs for working from home. In addition to conducting a series of employee well-being surveys, HR organized a series of virtual town halls with RBC’s CEO and senior leaders to keep staff across the country in the loop.

As a precursor to welcoming back its workforce, the bank has created new onboarding and training programs that are 100 per cent digital for the 1,400 summer students who are taking on roles across the company. Moving forward, each location will continue to undertake extra sanitation and cleaning measures, while ensuring physical distancing, for all employees working in central and regional offices as well as branch locations.

Kevin Spurgaitis is a Toronto-based writer interested in ethics and public health issues.



A picture of a pink heart that says "be kind"

Don’t judge

Kindness is important as some people may have difficulty putting on or taking off a mask or have difficulty breathing with a mask.

Who’s at risk?

While the virus can make anyone sick, there is an increased risk of a more severe outcome for:

A young black female PSW pushing an older black man in a wheelchair.
  • Those 65 and over.
  • Those living with a compromised immune system.
  • Those diagnosed with an underlying medical condition.

Mask up

Woman wearing mask with a background of coronavirus germs.

When worn properly, a mask can reduce the spread of infectious respiratory droplets and allow for easy breathing, your mask should fit securely to your head with ties or ear loops. Sanitize your hands before putting on and taking off your face covering. Make sure your mask:

  • Maintains its shape after washing and doesn’t gape.
  • Can be changed regularly and has at least 2 layers of tightly woven material, not plastic.
  • Isn’t shared with others or worn by children under two years.
  • Won’t impair vision or interfere with tasks.
An illustration of a young boy wearing a mask holding a dog wearing a mask. A man is coughing into a tissue behind them.

How coronavirus spreads

Human coronaviruses cause infections of the nose, throat and lungs. They are most commonly spread from person-to-person by close contact through:

  • Respiratory droplets generated when you cough or sneeze.
  • Close contact, such as touching or shaking hands.
  • Touching something with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands.

Be a FluWatcher

Flu watchers is a government of Canada website where volunteers now track to help show where COVID-19 is circulating. See what FluWatchers are currently reporting at: diseases/flu-influenza/fluwatcher

Preventing coronavirus

An illustration of a bucket of cleaning supplies.

Coronaviruses are one of the easiest types of viruses to kill with the right disinfectant and when used according to directions. Health Canada has published a list of hard surface disinfectants that are likely to be effective for use against COVID-19. Preliminary information on COVID-19 suggests that the virus may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days depending on: temperature, type of surface and humidity of the environment.

Do I have COVID-19?

Concerned about having symptoms? Use this COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool:



The economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been devastating. Many people have lost their jobs and face financial challenges while companies are cutting back and some are closing down.

The good news is that supermarkets, as well as many other companies and organizations like delivery services and online shopping considered “essential services” have been hiring, as they are a key part of the economy.

Below are some suggestions of how you can look for work, and follow the Public Health guidelines in order to keep safe and healthy during this pandemic:

Online applications

Make a list of all the grocery stores you want to work at and try to pick those closest to your home so you can walk there. Where possible, pick the early morning, evening, or even overnight shifts that have the least amount of people so you can keep social distancing (and all the other requirements like hand washing). Use Google to search out all the grocery stores that are hiring by entering a “key word” search. For example, if you want to work at Walmart, type in “jobs at Walmart Canada”. There should be a link to apply for jobs online. For a bigger picture of the job openings from this sector and beyond, check out online job boards such as Indeed Canada,, and LinkedIn as well as from the company’s website. Even on the radio this morning, there is a call for candidates by Walmart!

A fashionable woman with dwarfism standing outside and smiling.

Follow up

Prior to the virus, you might have applied online and then dropped in to follow up with the store manager. However, during this virus, it’s a bit trickier. I would arrange to drop in to the grocery store where you applied when you or your family need to go shopping for food and supplies. Pick times when the store is less busy to avoid line-ups and crowds. Then, I’d ask to speak to the store manager or the assistant manager. Mention that you are following up as you have applied online to see what the next steps are.

You can also try to call the customer service department and see when the manager is in the store before you show up. During these times of crisis and shortages of staff, showing initiative while keeping a two-metre distance (physical distancing) from others at all times. Remember, employers are overwhelmed with handling this crisis, and applying new ways of doing business while complying with the Public Health requirements to keep a safe environment for staff and customers and prevent outbreaks.

So even though they need staff, we are all in this together to learn how to deal with this pandemic crisis. Be patient.

Potential employers

I’ve listed a select few of employers who are currently hiring in the GTA. Once a week, I would check out all the websites of the stores where you want to work to see the job postings.

  • Walmart Canada, is looking to hire 10,000 employees to work in its stores and distribution centres.
  • Amazon Canada, is hiring 100,000 warehouse and delivery workers to handle the increase of online shopping and orders.
  • Call Centres are hiring customer service representatives who can work from home. For example, careers, a customer service and tech company, is hiring 400 work-from- home customer service representatives as well, with both full- and part- time opportunities available.
  • Pepsico Beverages Canada, is looking to fill 500 positions across the country, including delivery drivers, warehouse workers and employees in its manufacturing, merchandising, operations and product departments.
Laughing brazilian businessman at job interview at office with a African woman.

Healthy interviews

Many employers are having online job interviews using apps such as Skype and Zoom; others are using the good old fashioned phone. One of the questions in your interview is to find out how the employer is protecting
their staff and practicing the safe and healthy workplace environment that complies with the guidelines mandated by the Ministry of Health. You can also visit the store as a customer prior to applying for work to see what they are actually implementing to keep their employees safe. For example, grocery stores have installed plexiglass protectors around the cashiers as well as six feet markers on the floor, and employees wear gloves. You can check this site out to see what is required: health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease- covid-19.html. Needless to say, if the employer is not protecting its their staff, you probably do not want to work there.

Keep skills up-to-date

Many of the employment centres (for example http:// offer online job search skills training workshops including using LinkedIn, career exploration, resume writing, interview skills and related. They are also offering employer information sessions online. Plus, there are a lot of online resources to learn new skills and keep engaged in learning. The public libraries may be closed but they offer plenty of online job search training and career cruising. Online learning, blogs and podcasts https:// Another helpful resource is

In the meantime, please keep safe, healthy and well during this pandemic.


Joanna Samuels, MEd, is an adult educator with an expertise in career/ job coaching and community/business partnership building. She is also is an employment resource supervisor at




After attending several job interviews for a customer service position, one of the participants in our supported employment program for youth with a developmental disability finally received a job offer. He was excited by this great news, especially after working so hard at his job search. We felt it was important to reflect back on all of his past interview experiences, including the one that led to the offer. We wanted to figure out why this last interview was different, as the individual had always had the experiences, skills, education and personality listed in the job descriptions. He felt that, in the final case, the interviewer really liked him and that, “we really got along.” After he explained this observation, I wondered if perhaps this was the “halo effect” in action?

Countless job seekers that I have worked with over the years have received feedback from interviewers that they are, “not a good fit.” I think it’s important that we do a deeper dive into this response and explore the halo effect, a psychological phenomenon coined by 1920s psychologist Edward Thorndike. As the theory goes, we like people who are similar to us and who we think will like us in return. In 2019, psychosocial rehabilitation specialist Kendra Cherry gave this explanation for the behaviour: “Right or wrong, we are genetically programmed to value similarity and fear difference or unfamiliarity, so we show unconscious bias towards candidates who remind us of others with whom we’ve had positive experiences. Second, once we’ve decided we like someone, our brains go about finding reasons to continue liking them— and we can see the other as an angel who can do no wrong!”

This halo effect can play a role in job interviews. Individuals hire people they like, and sometimes this overrides the fact that they lack other skills required for the job, reports Cherry, who adds that people are rarely aware this is happening. Cherry warns that it is important to understand this psychological state, but with caution—you cannot control it in other people, or the outcome of an interview.

You may not be able to eliminate the halo effect from popping up in job interviews but, according to neuropsychologist Cristina Martínez de Toda, job seekers can learn how to make it work to their benefit. She offers the following suggestions.

Be aware of your own biases

The first step to putting a stop to the halo effect is to work to eliminate it in yourself. Be conscious of when you’re wrongfully judging someone, or
if you find you don’t like someone without knowing them well. When you arrive at a job interview, be open to meeting new people and learning from them. Don’t be judgemental of the interviewers— just as you don’t want them to judge you without knowing you.

Practice and prepare

You can also consciously aim to produce the halo effect in a job interview. Before the meeting, practice interviewing and ask your job coach or someone you know well for their first impressions of you. Reflect and learn from their responses, and work out how you can improve your skills and presentation. It’s important to be yourself, but this doesn’t stop you learning different ways to interview. For example, maintaining eye contact, dressing in a professional manner, and being clean and scent-free can make a difference with the interviewer.


Smiling can influence the halo effect, as long as it’s a real smile and not forced. Having a happy demeanour can project kindness, empathy and enthusiasm for the job. Studies have demonstrated that when you smile, you produce a positive cause/ effect phenomenon: the other person smiles too! People tend to like someone who smiles, as long as it’s real and honest. Stay away from a forced “Joker-type” smile, as you will come across as fake and unlikable.


Being clear and concise about your skills, experiences and enthusiasm for the job can boost the halo effect. Appearing honest and authentic can make a good impression. Again, you need to prepare and practise this with a job coach or someone who knows you. Avoid being negative. Keep the interview positive and listen more than you talk. Be confident in your skills and experiences when you communicate them to the interviewer.

Notice your non-verbal language

It’s important to understand that a substantial portion of our communication is non-verbal. Each day we respond to thousands of non-verbal cues and behaviours, including postures, facial expressions, eye gaze, gestures and tone of voice. From our handshake to our hairstyle, non-verbal details reveal who we are and influence how we relate to other people (Cherry discusses this at verywellmind. com/types-of-nonverbal-communication-2795397).

In a job interview, for example, the interviewer will watch and analyze how you move, your tone of voice, the way you look them in the eyes (or not) and more. Small body-language cues can give much more information than you might think.

Don’t fake it

It’s very important to understand that the halo effect is not about getting people to like you. You can’t make people like you! Be yourself. Be real. There are many facets to the processes of interviewing and job offers, of which the halo effect is just one. Do your best and an offer will come.

And finally…

Searching for a job and going for an interview is complicated and can be challenging. There is so much going on at once, from non-verbal communication to responses to questions, listening and learning about the role and company, your observations of the interviewer and your own confidence levels, to name just a few.

Wise advice:

  • Be yourself.
  • Do the best you can.
  • Prepare and practice as much as possible prior to the interview.

Always reflect on your experience so you can improve your presentation. And with a little luck and a halo on your side, you’ll get that job offer!

Photo of Joanna Samuels.

Joanna Samuels, MEd, is an adult educator with an expertise in career/ job coaching and community/business partnership building. She is also is an employment resource supervisor at



Managing a budget for the average Canadian can be a heavy lift. Recent events such as the COVID-19 pandemic have reminded Canadian households that when unexpected events occur, we must be financially prepared. What follows are a practical series of steps that you can take to protect your wealth even when you are living paycheque to paycheque, provided to you by financial expert, Bradley Atkins.

Q: If you are living check to check, how do you assess your budget to see what’s really going on?

A: It’s important to have a handle on where your money goes each month. There are many apps out there that will get all of your transactions in one place, but I find it just as easy to pull up my checking account and credit card statements and write them all down. There’s something magical that happens when you go through the exercise of writing down each expense. You create a true connection between your brain and your hand. Write down every transaction going back three months and dig in to find the random expenses that occur throughout that quarter.

Then, create categories so you can see a full picture. Don’t make this too complex. Five or six categories is plenty—housing, food, entertainment, transportation, insurance and debt repayment is plenty of detail, for example. Working through this process alone sheds light on where expenses can be reined in. Remember that even the smallest expense compounds over time, not just the amount, but the life of interest you could earn as passive income for not spending it.

Q: Why is it so difficult to stick to a budget? If you are averse to them, what are some baby steps to get started?

A: The easiest place to start for most people is entertainment. Specifically, dining out. Morning coffee shop visits are easy to replace with a nice insulated mug and a coffee maker at home. Signing up for an online cooking class is less expensive than one nice dinner and can make eating at home each night fun. The added bonus is you’ll likely lose a few pounds, which can make you feel better and motivated. You don’t need to forego a new car or rush to pay off your mortgage too quickly. While those goals are nice, they tend to overwhelm most folks who just need to shave 15 per cent or so off of their spending each month and direct it towards their savings.

Q: If you don’t have any debt, but want to save money, what are some smart ways to squeeze more from your paycheque?

A: Easy, pay yourself first. Send 15 per cent of your pre-tax earnings to your retirement plan, and then into an investment account. If you’ve got a few bucks, you really should find an advisor to work with too, they tend to help you keep your hands off of your money.

A picture of a middle-aged couple. The man is looking at a laptop and the woman is looking at papers.

Q: What are three ways to drastically cut your budget and reduce household expenses?

A: Pretend you just had a child and one spouse quit working. Sell a car. Stop dining out.

Q: Which are some painless ways to cut your expenses?

A: Pack your lunch, cancel apps you pay for but don’t use, cut your cable and use online streaming services. Also, check to see if refinancing any of your debt makes sense (especially student loans and mortgages).

Q: Which expenses are destroying budgets, yet, we refuse to cut them?

A: Food and booze for sure, at least until restaurants and bars shut down. We now see people spending as much money dining out as they spend on housing. Everyone wants to live a lifestyle of the rich and famous and it is destroying budgets. If you are a two-income household living paycheque
to paycheque, you can’t afford to be a foodie! If you want to feel closer to the culinary scene, take a class online and spend time cooking for yourself and learning about cuisine.

Recent events such as the COVID-19 pandemic have reminded Canadian households that when unexpected events occur, we must be financially prepared.

Q: What are some ways to have free fun without the expense?

A: We seem to have lost the art of entertainment. Invite people to your backyard or the park and have them each bring their own meal and drinks. I’m amazed at the restaurant expenses I’ve seen over the past ten years or so. It’s not uncommon to see folks spending thousands of dollars at bars and restaurants each month. That expense alone equates to hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost savings over 20 years.

Sports is another way to stay fit and have fun for a minimal cost. There are many great leagues for sports that don’t cost a lot of money. Soccer, softball and basketball all have great leagues in most cities and don’t require thousands of dollars of equipment. They also take a couple hours out of your evenings that might otherwise be spent at expensive happy hours or attending other entertainment events.

You know what else is fun? A part-time gig in a field you’ve always wanted to work in. Our firm is headquartered in a coastal city where I see a lot of folks working part-time at marinas, golf courses and popular entertainment venues. When you’re busy, you don’t have time to spend money and the added income from a second job can have a huge impact on your financial life.

Picture of Bradley Atkins.

Bradley Atkins is the CEO of Modern Capital, a diversified financial services firm.



Every aspect of Chelsey Gotell’s life has been impacted by the pandemic: her family, her Osteaopathic clinic, and her ongoing volunteer work for the International Paralympic Committee as chair of the Athlete’s Council.

While the 12-time Paralympic medallist in swimming for Canada can’t wait to reopen her health practice, she admits returning to work right now also leaves her a little nervous.

Gotell, who has oculocutaneous albinism and is visually impaired, owns and operates Etobicoke Osteopathy where she treats a number of people with disabilities. Her work involves a type of manual therapy that focuses on treating the root cause of pain, rather than symptoms. It takes a
full body approach to health and well-being and treats everything from spinal imbalances, muscle aches and pains to digestive issues, and headaches.

With this summer’s Paralympic Games in Tokyo postponed until August 2021, Gotell has found more time and energy to focus on safe ways to reopen and continue to build her practice. Some of the conversations she’s had with frightened Paralympic athletes around the world, and knowing how immunocompromised some of them are, have also made her look for innovative solutions and reflect on how she can better help people with disabilities and older adults.

Like many Canadians, Gotell hasn’t been able to earn a living after completely shutting down her operations in March because of the risk of COVID-19 transmission. With her husband also self-employed, for months they’ve relied on the federal government’s emergency CERB benefit to pay the bills.

That’s why—on the one hand—she says it will be great to get her business back up and running. “I’m really itching to get back to work and do what I’m trained to do. I got into this profession to help people feel better.” She adds, “Now is a prime time when I really need to be out in the community supporting people, but with non- essential health care being limited until recently, I’ve had to remain closed.”

On the other hand, Chelsey tells me, she’s trying to balance the economics with treating patients and her genuine concerns for her safety and the safety of her patients. In addition, she recognizes the complexity of opening her doors as many of her patients looking for therapy are from vulnerable populations. And of course, they usually come to see her when they are not feeling their best. “We treat a lot of elderly people, a lot of people with disabilities, infants, people with different types of immunocompromised diseases and disorders so the precautions that we need to have in place need to be much more strict.”

Gotell plans to reserve the first appointment each day at her clinic for people with disabilities or anybody who is immunocomprised. That way
all of us don’t have to worry who is coming into the clinic before or after them.

“People with disabilities are always the most marginalized within any community whether it’s the good times or tough times like now in
the pandemic,” Gotell says. “They deserve and need to feel good and trust that the systems in place will safeguard and protect them. Especially
as somebody with a disability myself, this is very close to my heart. It is such an easy piece to put into place to make sure everyone is getting the
best care and they can just relax when on my table.”

“Talking to many Paralympic athletes throughout the pandemic globally—and knowing how immunocompromised some of them are, they are terrified for their lives. There’s a real fear because of this virus.”

She also plans to closely follow all of the safety guidelines of the Government of Ontario and the Ontario Osteopathic Association. This includes screening patients on the phone and then when they arrive at their appointment for COVID-19. Gotell also won’t allow anybody into the waiting room. Patients will be asked to wait in their cars until they are invited to come in. They’ll be expected to wear masks, leave their shoes in a designated bin and sanitize their hands before their appointment.

Gotell will wear a mask that will be changed between patients and, depending on each patient’s individual needs based on the pre-screening and their health, she may also wear a gown, gloves and a face shield. She is also planning to schedule fewer appointments per day to ensure there is no crossover of patients in the clinic and to allow more time to sanitize between patients.

“I’ll be sanitizing everything that’s touched during the actual treatment with my patients whether it’s a handrail, a doorknob, the treatment table and pillows—anything they lean on to put on their shoes will be sanitized in between my patients.”

But, her patient appointments aren’t the only thing Gotell is worried about: “I have Emily, my 14-month-old daughter. The number one priority in my life is to make sure that, as her protector, I keep her safe and healthy.”

“My clinic is currently in the basement of my house, so I also need to consider bringing people into my home for treatment as an added layer of complexity.“

This means that on scheduled clinic days, her family will only use the front entrance, while patients will enter through the back. All the clothing Gotell wears in her workspace and with patients during the day will immediately go into the wash.

“This pandemic has created a lot of risk and extra work for me and a great deal of stress and anxiety for people—and stress manifests itself in the body physically—I’m really looking forward to helping the people who need me right now but I have to be very careful.”

Picture of Teddy Katz.

Teddy Katz was a CBC sports journalist for 20 years, and chief spokesperson and director of media relations for the Toronto 2015 Pan and Parapan American Games. More recently, Teddy helped run the press office for the International Paralympic Committee in Rio and will be at the Tokyo 2021 Paralympic Games.



One of Canada’s most successful Paralympians, now a swim coach, fitness instructor and public speaker as well as the chef de mission for Team Canada in Tokyo, should win her 20th medal for the ingenious way she’s kept her various business ventures up and running during COVID-19.

In early March, when most of her activities could have come to a screeching halt as the pandemic restrictions closed in, Dixon, who hails from White- horse, Yukon, decided to tackle things in her normal tenacious style. Consequently, she and her clients, have barely missed a beat.

When the Olympic size swimming pool where she is the head coach for 120 plus swimmers shuttered its doors, Dixon realized that in order for her athletes to remain motivated and actively training, she had to think fast. Hence her 30-day challenge and swim bingo contests were born!

Each swimmer was charged with completing a fun mix of prescribed fitness tasks and public service activities, including making a donation to the food bank. And, once it was safe to go in the water, she encouraged them to don their wet suits and take a dip in a collection of her favourite northern lakes. “It was right after the ice melted and the water was really cold. The idea was just to be bold enough to get in splash around and get out,” Dixon says, adding that in one lake there was still a huge iceberg in the background when she led a group into the water.

Picture of Stephanie Dixon and another swimmer in swim gear standing at the edge of a lake.

Dixon and her swimmers continue to swim in the lakes expecting that their indoor practice pool will likely remain closed until the last stage of COVID-19 reopening. “The water, pool deck and change rooms are considered high risk areas and if they limit the number of participants, it makes it difficult for the pool to operate financially,” she explains.

For her fitness classes and personal training, Stephanie received early permission from authorities to hold sessions outdoors in the empty field of a closed elementary school. To keep her 10 participants in each class safe during their workouts she places orange pylons two metres apart and stays clear herself. No one can share equipment and only one person uses each mat before it’s disinfected and prepped for the next class.

As for her work as an ambassador and public speaker, Dixon normally travels extensively. Unable to do that, she’s adapted to give her keynote speeches online. And, ever the “can-do optimist,” she sees the positive in this new approach. “I’ve been doing more and more things over zoom which is going to let me reach more people and limit the carbon footprint of our travel.”

As far as Ms. Dixon’s role as the chef de mission for Team Canada at the upcoming Paralympics in Tokyo, which has now been postponed until 2021, she’s grounded there too by travel restrictions. She’s had to send messages of support to athletes from afar. “It’s been so neat to see different organizations and events and how they are adapting,” she says, adding that, “in tough times we get resourceful and some of the most creative ideas are born.”

One thing the upbeat Dixon would like to change is the way she’s found herself subconsciously looking at the ground as she passes people in the street. “I guess it was making me feel safer not to engage. I’m not sure why but I have been very conscientious of late to look people in the eye. Just because we can’t be close to each other doesn’t mean we can’t share a warm smile when we greet one another. We can still connect as humans even though we are staying physically apart.”

Picture of Stephanie Dixon swimming for Canada in the paralympics.

5 ways to build resilience and stay motivated from Stephanie Dixon

  1. Be intentional and deliberate about your support system. The people around us heavily influence our thoughts and actions and most importantly, how we feel about ourselves. Surround yourself with people who make you feel seen, heard and valued.
  2. Limit exposure to social media. We are in a very heavy time and most of us are feeling sensory overload and overwhelmed. Swap a few dives down the social media rabbit hole for short quiet or meditative sessions. Wonderful free apps are Calm and Insight Timer to help you stay focused. When our minds are quiet it helps to put things into perspective and life and its struggles can feel more manageable.
  3. Get Outside! Nature is healing and restorative. While maintaining physical distance from others, make time to get outside! Moving your body will slow the pace of your mind and your day.
  4. Read books, watch Ted Talks, listen to podcasts that INSPIRE you. In this tough time, it can be easy for our minds to spiral into a negative narrative. Uplift yourself with positive, encouraging and educational content.
  5. Armour yourself with knowledge and resources! Do research about what resources are available for you right now. Many people’s lives have been turned upside down and there are many organizations providing financial support and/or resources to help Canadians get back on track. Find out what you are eligible for and which local organizations have support for you!
Picture of Teddy Katz.

Teddy Katz was a CBC sports journalist for 20 years, and chief spokesperson and director of media relations for the Toronto 2015 Pan and Parapan American Games. More recently, Teddy helped run the press office for the International Paralympic Committee in Rio and will be at the Tokyo 2021 Paralympic Games.